Islamabad - The lady health workers feel that misogynistic policies of the successive governments have deprived them of their due rights.

As it is a male dominated society and lady health workers’ programme is purely female-based with dedication for mother and child healthcare, the workers of this programme have been exploited since long, maintained Rukhsana Anwar, President of LHWs’ Association Pakistan.

There are no service rules, benefits of civil servants and set duty hours for them and they are being involved in every healthcare activity without any incentives and logistic facilities, she complained.

After the 18th Amendment, the subject of health was devolved to the provinces and, as such, the LHW programme run by the federal government for supporting family planning and primary healthcare was also devolved. The services of around 160,000 lady health workers (LHWs) who have been working across the country were regularised after a long battle of four years in September 2014.  But they have not been accepted as civil servants yet as no provincial government has drafted or implemented service structure for the workers.

Although the monthly payment was increased from Rs 8,000 to Rs 14,000 yet it is not paid on time. The lady health workers are still without the salaries of four months and protesting for their release in various parts of the country. As there are no service rules for the job, they are called at any time and work from dawn to dusk in face of security threats, harassment and family opposition, Anwar being the head of the network expressed thousands of workers’ disquiet.

“The LHWs are involved in every health campaign but in return they are given nothing. They are assigned hundreds of houses to cover in just three days during door to door polio vaccination campaign and given only Rs 1,000. And for the campaigns of measles, TB, mother and child health and breast feeding weeks, they receive nothing in response.”

“They wander through the far-off areas without any mobility or health allowance leaving behind their own children at home unattended. And when they go home after all the hard work, their husbands or other elders object over not doing household chores. How can they take care of others’ health when their own health is not good?” she questioned.

Neither the benefits of being government servants have been reaching out to them nor funds from donors benefit them in any way, she alleged.

“We want our due civil servant rights so that our duty hours must be fixed and facilities of house rent, health and mobility allowances be given to lady workers like all other government servants,” she demanded.

If the governments remain unmoved, the workers will start boycotting their work in every province, she warned. “We will start our protest from Punjab, stage a sit-in at Mall Road and boycott upcoming anti-polio drive in October and then we will gather in Islamabad from all provinces to register our protest,” she said.

The federal government is just contributing in terms of their budget now after devolution, said a government official of federal ministry of health. The provinces should fulfil their obligations now and own these programmes which have played a key role in spreading awareness.